Stage site for the 7th time

Ski resort in Ariège (09) in the commune of Les Cabannes

Population: 360 (Cabannais, Cabannaises), 5,000 in the Haute-Ariège community of communes.

Specialities: delicatessen, zynat (soup), mushrooms, croustade, Tommes d'Ariège, Milla ariégeois (dessert).

Personalities: Omar Bouyoussef (Paralympic champion in Nagano), Isabelle Casanova (Paralympic giant slalom champion in Salt Lake City and Nagano)

Sport: Cross-country skiing.

Economy: Tourism, skiing.

Festivals: Grands Chemins (street arts) / Oxygène pour les oreilles (music) / Festival des saveurs (gastronomy)

Labels: Accueil Vélo,

Website: www.beille.frwww.cg09.frwww.vallees-ax.comwww.ariegepyrenees.comwww.valleedax.fr /


THE PLATEAU DE BEILLE AND CYCLING

A cross-country ski resort, Plateau de Beille quickly made a name for itself in the cycling world, with five Tour de France finishes in thirteen years. And the climb conquered for the first time in 1998 by Marco Pantani was one of those that crowned champions, as its first four winners (Pantani, Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador) donned the Yellow Jersey on the Champs-Elysées. The trend was reversed during the 2011 Tour, when the stage win went to Jelle Vanendert, the first Belgian to win a Tour de France mountain stage since Lucien Van Impe in 1983. Philippe Gilbert's team-mate then donned the polka-dot jersey. In 2015, for the final stage of the Tour, Joaquim Rodriguez, who had lost ground in the general standings after the first two stages in the Pyrenees, took his revenge by winning solo at Plateau de Beille. It was Purito’s' third and final stage win in the Tour, following his victories in Mende in 2010 and Huy in 2015.


SIGHTS:

  • Cross-country skiing

Plateau de Beille is the ideal place for Nordic skiing, whether you're looking for a leisurely stroll, a challenging hike or a biathlon. The resort has 21 different courses, suitable for beginners and advanced skiers alike. Beille is also a modern take on cross-country skiing, thanks in particular to the Nordic Development Zone (ZEN), a real playground just a ski lift away! In short, Nordic skiing in the Pyrenees is at Beille. - 21 marked, safe runs for all abilities - 2 biathlon areas - Nordic skiing lessons from the French Ski School (ESF) - Biathlon courses run by the French Ski School (ESF) - 1 Nordic ski hire (skating and classic) on site.  

  • Snowshoe trail

Plateau de Beille has become one of the world's leading snowshoeing areas, with something for everyone. There are a number of signposted routes for beginners to try their hand (or foot) at snowshoeing, and for experienced snowshoe trekkers to explore the wide open spaces covered in snow on the plateau.  

  • Lombrives cave

Period: Lower Cretaceous

History: the cave has served as a refuge for thousands of years. Prehistoric human groups from the Neolithic period, outcasts, heretics, the persecuted, brigands, hermits, lepers, simple shepherds and counterfeiters have taken shelter here. The cave is also said to have sheltered the Cathar bishop Amiel Aicard after the fall of Montségur castle in 1244. It was home to priests and nobles during the French Revolution, and then to Republicans during the First Empire. King Henry IV is even said to have stayed there.

Characteristics: the waters of the Ariège have carved out 39 kilometres of galleries in the largest cave in Europe, listed in the Guinness Book of Records.

Trivia: according to legend, in 1328, more than 500 Cathars, persecuted during the Albigensian Crusade by the Holy Inquisition and King Louis IX, took refuge here. Cardinal and Inquisitor Jacques Fournier (the future Pope Benedict XII) had them walled up alive. Other legends make the cave the tomb of Princess Pyrene, the origin of the Pyrenees, or mention the existence of a Cathar treasure.

Special features: in March-April 2021, the Deep Time scientific mission was carried out at the bottom of the cave. For forty days, fifteen volunteers and scientists lived in a vacuum, eliminating any notion of time other than that of the circadian clock in order to study how the human body and mind react in such extreme conditions.

Listed natural site.

  • Niaux cave

Formation: Jurassic.

First occupation: Magdalenian.

Characteristics: it has over 200 entrances and some of its halls are huge, such as the Cathedral Hall, which is as large as Notre-Dame de Paris. The hall of Satan's Empire, 4 km from the entrance, is three to four times bigger. The cave served as a refuge for Cathars and priests during the French Revolution.

Special features: the Niaux cave contains a wealth of parietal art, including most of the species typical of the prehistoric fauna of the Pyrenees massif. Most of the animals are painted in black charcoal or manganese dioxide, and some are painted in red crushed haematite. The main room, which contains the most spectacular animal representations, is known as the Black Room. The cave has also yielded signs such as dots or lines in red and black, either isolated on the walls or associated with the animal representations. The age of the paintings in the Salon Noir containing charcoal has been estimated at 13,000 years.

Current use: the cave is open to the public, in groups of no more than 25 visitors.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1911.  

  • Lordat Castle

Construction: 10th century

Style: medieval.

History: its construction probably dates back to the 9th and 10th centuries. Lordat is first mentioned in 970 as the capital of a ministerium. A castrum was mentioned in the 11th century. In 1034, it was ceded by Bernard, Count of Carcassonne, to his younger son Roger, the first Count of Foix. Around 1244, it was occupied by the Cathars during the crusade against the Albigensians. At the end of the 13th century, the King of Aragon seized it and demanded its destruction. The Lordat family had a long and influential relationship with the Counts of Foix but abandoned the castle during the Wars of Religion. Dismantled by order of Henry IV in 1582, it gradually fell into ruin.

Characteristics: Lordat castle, of which only the ruins remain, occupies an exceptional strategic position. Situated on a limestone outcrop at an altitude of 965 metres, its walls overlook the Sabarthès region (the upper Ariège valley) by 400 metres. This is one of the oldest and largest feudal castles in the high county of Foix. It is a typical example of medieval military architecture in the Ariège Pyrenees. The entrance, protected by a square tower, still retains its original appearance.

Current destination: since June 2016, the château has reopened its doors, offering tours and events during the summer.

Listed as: Historical Monument since 1923.


TO EAT:

  • Azinat

Certainly the most emblematic dish of the Ariège, azinat is an ancient traditional dish that was originally intended to keep peasants fit. Cooked in the form of a potée (cabbage stew) using seasonal vegetables (such as cabbage, potatoes, chard, etc.) and meat, it could be prepared and adapted throughout the year.

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